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Disney Food Year in Review: 2011

Happy New Year, everyone! 2011 was a big year for food in Disney parks and resorts, and when there are this many changes it can be helpful to recap — especially if you’re headed to a Disney park or resort soon!

So come with us as we walk through 2011 and a few of those newsworthy highlights! What’s your favorite Disney Food news from 2011?? Share your experience with us in the comments below!

2011 Disney Food Year in Review

Check below to see 2011 updates from Disney World, Disneyland, and other Disney destinations as well as our additions and changes here on the Disney Food Blog!

Walt Disney World Year In Review

Restaurant Openings and Renovations
Although they haven’t enjoyed as many full-blown restaurant openings as they did in 2009 and 2010, Disney World has definitely had its share of restaurant renovations and updates.

Tortuga Tavern in the Magic Kingdom replaced the (also Pirate-themed) El Pirata y El Perico. Serving much the same menu, including Mexican and Tex-Mex options, Tortuga also added some fun and whimsical decor so that you don’t forget that you’re in Disney World.

Also in the Magic Kingdom, we saw Storybook Treats and Cheshire Cafe develop from their former counterparts.

The AMC Fork and Screen Theater opened in Downtown Disney in 2011, so you can save time by doing dinner and a movie together, then heading back out into the parks! Nothing like some serious multi-tasking in the World!

Katsura Grill replaced Yakitori House in Epcot’s Japan late in 2011. Much of the same food is offered, but you will find a slightly more “clean lines” layout and a few additional classic Japanese menu items.

The overhaul in Japan also included the addition of the Kabuki Cafe, which is basically a more formal Kaki Gori stand also serving a seasonal menu of Japanese snacks like Miso Soup, Sushi, and Edamame.

Japanese Pancake from Katsura Grill

Right between the two new spots? An outdoor Sake bar! We can highly recommend the lime sake cocktail!

Also in Epcot, the always-popular Le Cellier Steakhouse turned its dinner meal into a signature dining option in March, making this meal 2 credits on the Disney Dining Plan. Le Cellier is still a tough ticket to get, so I think the hope that this price increase would lessen demand for reservations might be dashed. It’s still a popular spot for both lunch and dinner.

Over in Animal Kingdom, the guest-favorite Tusker House Character breakfast has expanded to include a new character lunch as well! This has brought positive response from Disney character meal fans!

And Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge has introduced a brand new dining experience in 2011! Dine with an Animal Specialist at Sanaa offers guests the opportunity to share lunch with one of Disney’s talented and experienced animal specialists who take care of the furry and feathery Disney residents! Don’t forget, you’ll get a great view of the animals on the savanna during your meal.

Jiko Wine Tasting Personal Cheese Plate

Also, we can highly recommend the new Jiko Wine Tastings in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Both are incredible, under-the-radar experiences that still have last-minute openings! Our advice? Cash in on these opportunities before word gets out!

New Policies and Technology Introduced at Walt Disney World
Whether you love it or hate it, things are definitely a-changin’ when it comes to policies and procedures around dining in Disney World.

In 2011, Disney Dining added a strict cancellation policy imposing a 24-hour cancellation window for signature and character meal reservations in addition to requiring a credit card guarantee for these reservations. No show? You owe!

We also saw the addition of some updated technologies in Disney’s online reservations system. Guests are no longer able to reserve more than one dining reservation at the same time (associated with the same room reservation or phone number), and Disney now provides a reminder email several hours before each dining reservation.

Pecos Bill Automated Ordering

Touch screen ordering systems are becoming even more prevalent in Disney World, and are now in use at several counter service locations, including Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe, Contempo Cafe, and Captain Cook’s. Guests of the Epcot Food and Wine Festival in 2011 were able to opt for touch screen ordering and payment at the Cheese Booth in the World Showcase.

And guests at Todd English’s bluezoo in the Dolphin Resort have access to an interactive, touch screen bar menu!

Promotional QR codes were seen in 2011 at many events and displays, including the 2011 Epcot Food and Wine Festival and the holiday gingerbread displays.

And a new refillable mug experiment may also change the way these popular mugs are used in the future. Should the tested system be put in place resort-wide, guests will need to scan a code before filling up their mugs, and codes will allow for refills only during the guests’ current stay at a Disney resort.

QR code for Food and Wine Festival

Other Updates and Additions
In other Disney World food news from 2011:

Disneyland Year in Review

We’re seeing some serious changes in Disneyland Resort over the course of 2011 and 2012! Most of the updates are taking place in Disney California Adventure, of course; but Disneyland Park is seeing its fair share of changes on Main Street!

Disney California Adventure
Disney California Adventure’s new Dulce Aventura offers sweet treats on Pacific Wharf!

Lunch at Paradise Garden Grill

Over at Paradise  Pier guests can try out the brand new Bayside Brews, serving some great draft options as well as filled pretzels. Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta and Paradise Garden Grill next door offer guests their choice of menu items, from pasta to spicy kebabs! Don’t forget the try the sweet brownie kabob for dessert.

Disneyland Park
In Disneyland Park, we were delighted to sample the new Hungry Bear Restaurant, tucked waaaay back in Critter Country (and winner of a 2011 DFB Choice Award!). The new, unique menu items give this location a “better-than-your-average-burger” feel!

Over in Fantasyland, the Village Haus (formerly known as Pinocchio Village Haus) has dropped its Pinocchio and adopted a new menu!

And in New Orleans Square, the exclusive Club 33 has updated some membership policies. Is the brand new Club 1901 in Disney California Adventure part of the changes?

Uh Oa! Drink at Trader Sam's

Disneyland Hotel
We loved visiting the new Trader Sam’s Bar and Lounge (which includes gags and interactive antics that remind Disney World historians a bit of the dearly departed Adventurer’s Club in Pleasure Island) at the Disneyland Hotel this year! I’ll have a fun review of this unique and always-packed venue very soon!

The tiki-inspired Tangaroa Terrace counter-service location, right next to Trader Sam’s, offers Disneyland Hotel guests a great spot to pick up breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and wait for there to be space open at Trader Sam’s…).

Other Disney Destinations Year in Review

Disney Cruise Line
The brand new Disney Dream took its maiden voyage in 2011, bringing guests the all new Remy restaurant and the updated and interactive Animator’s Palette along with many other innovative dining outlets.

Remy, the second adults-only restaurant on the ship, features unique menus developed by award-winning Chefs Scott Hunnel and Arnaud Lallement. Along with incredible decor (you might see a familiar little mouse depicted once or twice), a panoramic view, and food like you’ve never tasted before, it’s well worth the extra money to treat yourself.

Animator’s Palette has been renovated from its original incarnation on the Disney Wonder and Magic cruise ships. The version on the Dream features a very close encounter with Crush the Turtle and other friends from Finding Nemo!

You can explore the rest of the restaurants and dining options on the ship by reliving our visit with us on the Disney Dream Dine Around!

Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa
The brand new Aulani Resort and Spa debuted in Hawai’i in late 2011! Disney’s first foray into Hawai’i means that the resort restaurant menus needed to be completely different from anything they’d ever done before!

While you’ll still find character meals and other Disney touches, you’ll also be greeted with seasonal and local ingredients and menu items customized to the surrounding cultures. Shave Ice anyone?

Disney Food Blog Year in Review

Here at the Disney Food Blog, we had a great 2011! We launched our first four e-Books, including the 250-page DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining — your quintessential guide to planning and eating in Disney World!

DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining

We also created and launched our Disney Food Blog Restaurant Search Tool. With over 200 restaurants in Disney World, this tool gives you the opportunity to plug in what YOU want to experience and see all of the restaurants that fit your criteria!

This year we debuted our Disney Food News Pin Board, a great way to keep up on all of the Disney Food News (and believe me, there’s a LOT of it!).

And we thank everyone who participated in this year’s Disney Food Blog WDW Foodie Fest! Stay tuned to the DFB for even more details about that fun event!

We were also excited to be mentioned this year in USAToday.com, Frommers.com, MSNBC.com, the Orlando Sentinel, the Orlando Business Journal, WESH.com, and FoodandWine.com. You can also listen to our interview on NPR’s Good Food here!

There’s lots more coming from the Disney Food Blog! We have three big surprises up our sleeves that you’ll be seeing in the next few months!

Thank you for reading and supporting us in 2011! I wish you and yours a healthy, happy, and successful 2012! On our end, we’ll keep eating and reporting — and stay tuned for those surprises!

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6 Comments

  1. Alan says:

    Looking at the past year, I am very optimistic and pleased with the food scene at WDW and DL. The DFB reviews seem, at least to me, to have been more positive especially in the later part of the year. Some new restaurants, updates and improvements are all encouraging.

    It seems that the Disney folks have shined their spotlight in the direction of food and beverage which is the direction that the DFB readers are happy to see.

  2. AJ says:

    Alan, I agree. There are definitely some great investments being made into food and beverage these days. I know it’s part of the general parks expansion, but there’s nothing on the docket that I’m not optimistic about. Interestingly, we keep seeing food pop up more and more in merchandise as well, so perhaps Disney is realizing how important the food is to the Disney fan culture!

  3. JoAnn says:

    I’m a fairly new Disney food adict and so glad I found this site last year. I’m looking forward to learning what’s in store for 2012.

  4. Becca says:

    Happy new year, everyone! I’m so excited for 2012. Finally, I can start using the articles for planning rather than just food porn ;)

  5. marcellina says:

    Happy New Year AJ and all Disney Food Blog readers! I’m also excited to go to WDW in February and try out some new and interesting snacks and meals I learned about through this site. Even though I’ve been going to WDW since I was a teenager there are still a ton of restaurants and counter services that I had no idea about! Thanks again AJ!

  6. AJ says:

    JoAnn — We’re glad you found us, too!!! Your comments are so much fun, and I really look forward to hearing from you.

    Becca — Woo!!!! Can’t wait to hear about the plans, my friend!

    Marci — Happy New Year! It’s be so much fun getting to know you this year! Can’t wait to find out what happens with you and your creations in 2012.

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